The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

18 October 2008

'Conservative' Host Smerconish Endorses Obama


Hoping For MSM Career Support, Philly Talker Backs Obama

As anyone in the broadcast industry can tell you, there are a lot of phonies in this business. Sure, some true believers project a sincere and consistent belief system, one which the audience comes to depend upon over time. They often rise to the top.

Then, there are the slithering snakes, chameleons who are willing to betray listeners for their own career benefit. Any bond formed with a host like this isn't real as these are hollow, shallow individuals interested only in endless self-promotion. Usually, they struggle.

Your Radio Equalizer has worked with a few over the years: one particularly shameless individual played "conservative" at one station in the morning and "liberal" for another (on the opposite coast) in the afternoon!

Sincerity and honesty mean nothing to these guys; they would trip their grandmother if it led to a cable talk show appearance.

This week's award for unadulterated Phoniness in Broadcasting goes to Philly's Michael Smerconish, a second-tier talk player with unrealistic national ambitions. Though he was more than happy to take advantage of conservative listeners for many years for fun and profit, he's now had a sudden, last-minute change of heart that's led to an endorsement of Barack Obama for president.

Worse, he's actually got the nerve to pretend this is somehow a principled move in response to talk radio's "ideologues":

Michael Smerconish lit up the phone lines and filled his in-box this morning at his WPHT show with word that he's planning to vote for Barack Obama -- marking the first time since he registered to vote 28 years ago that he'll pull the Democrat lever for president.

He'll explain all in his Sunday column in The Inquirer's Currents section -- as much as he can do in 750 words. The intro reads: "John McCain is an honorable man who has served his country well. But he will not get my vote."

In a chat this afternoon, Smerconish acknowledged that most of the callers and e-mails were scathing, capping months of criticism that began when Smerconish invited Obama to speak on the air. "They never wanted me to welcome Obama in the first place," he said. In the spring, Smerconish announced that if he were a Democrat, he'd prefer Obama over Hillary Clinton.

Smerconish's associations with John McCain date back years. I remember a Smerconish "book club" appearance with McCain at the Downtown Club in December 2005 that was a veritable love-in for the Arizona senator.

Smerconish also acknowledged that this "coming out" might hurt his career nationally. He's been a frequent guest on and fill-in host for big names such as Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly -- both of whom wear their conservativism loudly and proudly.

Which is the case with most talk radio today. As a Republican -- and Smerconish was a HUD administrator here under Bush 41 and he spoke on behalf of 43 here in 2004 -- Smerconish's politics have been frequently mislabeled as "conservative."

"Take a look at idealogues who dominate the [talk] industry today," he told me. "Nobody who straddles [the local and national scene] like I do has success at a national level unless they work at the ends of the political spectrum. I'm never going to be Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann." He agreed that making his decision public was "not in my professional best interest, but it's how I see it. Mine is an opinion, purely based on a lot of circumspection. I'm fortunate that I've chatted with both, been in their presence, so this is not uninformed decision."

Don't believe for a minute Smerconish has made this publicity-generating move believing it would "hurt his career." That's a flat out lie.

This is all about winning friends at MSNBC, where the WPHT host serves as a thrice-weekly panelist. The ONLY reason was to please Olbermann & Friends.

At TVNewser, Gail Shister brings up the inevitable questions about his motives:

Smerconish's radio contract expires Dec. 31. Buzz says he won't re-sign unless the station takes him national. His exclusive deal with MSNBC is up in the spring. He appears three times a week, on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" and on David Gregory's "Race to the White House."

Backing Obama will not win him points with either employer, Smerconish insists.

As a precaution, however, he gave a heads-up to his radio boss about the endorsement and he responded with a supportive email, Smerconish says.

Still, in the radio industry "listeners are surrounded by people who work them into a lather all day. I'm in a business where ideologues get rewarded. You tow the party line, and in talk radio the party line is very conservative."

By the same token, he says he didn't do himself any favors at MSNBC, either. (Not that there are any prime-time openings there.)

Think about this: Smerconish works a CBS station in Philly. He'd like the company, a liberal outfit, to syndicate him nationally (despite ZERO industry interest in such a venture) and has threatened to leave WPHT if they won't.

In addition, his deal with fringe-leftist NBC outlet MSNBC is also running out and you know how they feel about conservatives. Could an Obama endorsement from someone in this situation be any more transparent?

But unlike the phonies your Radio Equalizer has known in the past who try keep their insincerity and dual roles quiet, Smerconish has compounded the sleaziness of his move by attempting to wrap it some sort of "principled" independence.

Sadly, that means he views the audience as too stupid to see through his moves. But they know they've been burned. He used them for years to earn a high salary in one of the nation's top radio markets. Now that bigger opportunities have become possible, however, he's flushed his listeners right down the toilet.

To those on the left who might be ready to welcome Smerconish with open arms, don't think for a moment that he won't burn you as well, should a profitable opportunity arise.

One might hope this stunt could backfire, but it's far more likely mainstream media execs will reward him for supporting their candidate. In terms of listener credibility, however, Michael Smerconish has lost it forever.

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  • Clearly Smerconish is putting his country ahead of his party and listeners.

    I wouldn't mind seeing MSNBC replace David Gregory's program with Smerconish after the election. It would give MSNBC another solid Conservative to complement Scarborough.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 18 October, 2008 04:33  

  • Funny thing here.. PA is a swing state and there are a whole bunch of fence sitters in 'republican' northeast philly and the surrounding counties of bucks, montgomery, delaware and chester.

    Smerconish has previous experience as a HUD appointee under Bush 41.

    So, Smirky give the nod to obama.. more of a big head wag. If McCain wins, he loses nothing really. HOWEVER, if obama wins... will we see some mid or upper level appointment for Smirky in the obamadinistration?? A filibuster proof senate means no one could do a darn thing about it.

    The brilliance of this is obama gets to shout "See... I'm Appointing a conservative radio talk show host... a republican.. Gee aren't I bi-Partisan??"

    Smirky is a former Medical Malpractice lawyer. I'm sure no illegal explicit Quid pro Quo happened. However.... 2 + 2 still adds up to 4.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 18 October, 2008 10:26  

  • might have something to do with why they don't have an audience. The quickest, easiest thing to figure out -- The host lies.

    By Blogger 10ksnooker, at 18 October, 2008 10:34  

  • Smerconish just kissed any chance for national or even regional syndication goodbye.

    Thanks Brian for the insight into this strange, strange man.

    There is no way any conservative syndicator will touch him.

    And there no need to even consider a liberal syndicator because they just fold up and blow away in the wind every 6 months or so.

    Smerconish just became an instant has-been.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 18 October, 2008 11:18  

  • let's assume your post is completely true, Brian.

    Are you really going to hold someone else's feet to the fire for doing what you do so well almost everyday?

    Sure, you're not switching sides - but virtually every article you post about O'Reilly, Limbaugh and the issues they love to drive is literally your attempt to get on the TV.

    Don't you feel you're being a bit hypocritical here?

    getting any articles on the war on christmas ready to parrot bill o'reilly talking points, yet?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 18 October, 2008 13:47  

  • Smerconish's man-crush on Barack Obama has been easy to pick up on from listening to his show these last few months. He's doing this, in part to, look cool in the eyes of many of his rock star heroes who have appeared on his show. The endorsement was no surprise. He's giddy over having interviewed Barack 3 times and hacked off that Palin won't give him the time of day.
    I won't argue with an Obama supporter in this election. He's a masterful politician, with a compelling presence. Most people are too busy with their 50 hour a week jobs to read the fine print of his message. Obama is coming from a fundamental belief that it is unfair that some have more than others and government is needed to even the score - to spread the wealth around. Such views are unfortunately, antithetical to a balanced budget and a healthy economy. I say unfortunately because I would love to buy into Obama's utopian view of the world, but the laws of cause and effect forbid me. For Smerconish, politics is a full time job and I expect him have the ability to see through the gravitas and emotional appeal of a Barack Obama and recognize the bad judgment behind some, certainly not all, of his positions.

    By Blogger Michael, at 18 October, 2008 20:58  

  • Good for him. Some Americans appreciate the fact that he owns his vote!

    As a lifelong Democrat supporting McCain/Palin this cycle, how pathetic is it that an American citizen has to THINK about whether or not it's safe for them to "admit" to their choice of candidate?

    I wouldn't say the halfhearted, limp support of McCain that Limbaugh, etc. are serving up has helped him one iota.

    Brian, I don't know what's worse; the total irony in you serving up an ideological litmus test for conservatives, or the fact that you come right out and admit this is probably sour grapes on your part, and you're entirely comfortable with that anyway.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 19 October, 2008 17:07  

  • Bill O'Reilly wanna-be (bash all sides) without nearly the talent.
    I saw this coming. He has Chris Matthews on his show and as mentioned appears on MSNBC with Matthews. Anyone that can sit and listen to a guy that gets a tingle up his leg and talks about how nice a smile O has... is little more than a shill (sleep in a bed with fleas, you get fleas).

    By Blogger Rob, at 20 October, 2008 10:34  

  • It is a cheap shot to call his listeners stupid for not seeing through his motive. Who cares what his motive is? Do you care that the guy robbing you is trying to feed his family? Does it make it less of a crime? Besides, you make it sound like that is the only choice. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But don't call the listeners stupid.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 October, 2008 12:19  

  • This isn't terribly surprising unfortunately. Despite his good work fighting for justice for murdered police officer Daniel Faulkner, Smerconish tends to style himself more as populist then a conservative. He strongly supported Ed Rendell for governor twice.

    He certainly isn't a classical liberal to any degree. He visited Castro, and spoke positively after coming back.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 October, 2008 15:22  

  • Outstanding analysis of this phony.

    I first saw him filling in on the Glenn Beck show (who is only slightly less phony) and knew he was a fraud back then.

    He was simply a "Red Jersey Wearer" when it suited him. He has the sinere moral code of anyone working a corner waiting for the first car to pull up.

    If there is a silver lining to the election, it's that some of the phonies like he, i.e. Noonan, Buckley, Parker, have revealed they are either opportunists and or elitists.

    Don't let the door hit you....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 October, 2008 16:58  

  • Solid Conservative? Are you people nuts? Smerconish is a flake. Anyone who listens to him is a jerkoff and should be reading a novel or a movie instead, which would be more predictable.
    Why am I wasting my time comentting on this loser? I don't know

    By Blogger Cris, at 22 October, 2008 20:42  

  • I knew SmerCONish was a phony as far back as when he mounted his first anti-Mumia crusade. That cause was his first major pandering job to solidify his populist cred among rank and file conservatives. He is probably the most shameless suck-up to every hit the airwaves as well. I have always hoped for his failure and now that may very well happen.

    By Blogger David Black, at 25 October, 2008 12:35  

  • Soon Smerconish will be endorsing Mumia Abu-Jamal. It is sad to say this, but there is a part of me that believes he would if it were to benefit his career.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 27 October, 2008 23:05  

  • This is difficult for many to accept but we live in a representative Democracy. If the majority want a dose of socialism that is their right. And why would they want such? Desperate times call for ....

    Allow me to submit that the era of UNBRIDLED capitalism has created an environment overly ripe for socialism.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 November, 2008 07:49  

  • I started listening to Mike 10 years ago and followed him through all of those years until he endorsed Barry, no more.

    You could tell in January that Mike had major wood for Barry, he just wouldn't say it. He attended the speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the next day was raving about it.

    Mike has some common sense leanings like gun ownership (he has guns) and criminal punishment, but he supports stem cell research, never distinguishes between government funding and private funding, abortion, raising taxes and social programs.

    He has many conflicts of interests, such as his relationship with Arlen Specter, lets Specter use his radio program to try and sell the illegal immigrant act and asks nothing about the fact that they entered the country illegally or overstayed a visa. Possibly because Specters’ son Shannon has courtside seats that Mike would like to use or Mike went to Cuba and met Fidel Castro through the Senator?

    Everything he does is calculated as to how he can become a big time media talking head, believe me, he thought this out and will now be positioning himself to be the ‘conservative’ supporter of Barry. Look to MSNBC, he’s continually sucking up to Chris Matthews, such as his raving about his debate moderation. It will be interesting to see who he supports when Matthews runs against Specter for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat election in 2010, damn what a choice, too bad ‘none of the above’ isn’t on the ballot, because mine will definitely be an ‘under vote’ or maybe I’ll write in someone.

    I won’t listen anymore, he’s always been a blowhard egomaniac whore, but entertaining at times, no more, he’s not that interesting and XM is a better choice for my 30 minutes in the AM.

    Mike has some interesting opinions, but he's a pop culture whore and a celebrity suckup who will jump on any bandwagon when it's the 'cool' thing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 November, 2008 09:42  

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